July 23, 2021
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Anil Srinivasan

Illaiyaraja is brilliant but he is more about music while Rahman is all about sound.

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Anil Srinivasan

Rahman’s music is not about film or pop but about good music. He has used new voices, multiple instruments, broadened the horizons of film music. He has done Hindustani, Carnatic to totally peppy RD Burman style songs. It all comes together in his music.

He gives credit to each of the individual musicians in his stable. Naveen who plays the flute, Javed Ali who plays the guitar—they have become individual entities, are performers in their own right. Each has a career of his own. He even made non film musicians, like Bombay Jaishree and Unnikrishnan, to be part of a larger dialogue. That way he has been like a music university.

His music is part of the larger global dialogue. He an understand the pulse around the world. His songs work as well in Paris, Mali or New York. He understands sounds, picks up sounds from across the world. He creates soundscapes. There is the song called Taxi in Chakrakatti where he has used a Mexican-Puerto Rican beat and hones it with a South Indian melody. It sounds familiar in Chennai as much as it does in NY.

He has a way of using unconventional voices. He associates a certain song or sound with a voice. You can’t imagine anyone other than Mohit Chauhan singing Masakalli or some one other than Javed Ali singing Kabhi kabhi Aditi.

He has used a diverse set of instruments in his music—western flute, cello, harp, sarangi, electric violin. He has a quirky sense of instrumentation.

Rahman also came at the right time. In Hindi film industry degradation had set in after R.D. Burman. Rahman brought the melody back.

Rahman also has a great understanding of cinema. He used a simple voice with piano and cello for the Khoon chala song which was played out against a lathi charge in RDB. Anyone else would have given a hard percussive score. But he brought irony into the situation by using a soft and subtle song.

He also represents a more confident India of the day. We are not ashamed of asserting our Indianness. His ethos is global but there is something uniquely Indian to his music. He is symbolic of what India stands for.

Illaiyaraja is brilliant but he is more about music while Rahman is all about sound. There is a different generation of listeners now, tastes have evolved. And the world is now at our doorstep, things are not localized anymore.

I like Khoon Chala from RDB; Masakalli from Delhi 6; Rubaru from RDB; every song from Roja and Vellai pookkal from Kannathil Murhamittaal.

As told to Namrata Joshi

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